POST 1 – BAUHAUS – Oskar Schlemmer -By Ren Gibson

“One should act as if the world had just been created; one should not analyse a thing to death, but rather let it unfold gradually and without interference.”
– Oskar Schlemmer


Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) was a German painter, sculptor, and stage designer. His single subject was the human figure, which he reduced to puppet-like, two-dimensional shapes that were expressive of the human body as a perfect system of proportions and functions analogous to the machine age.

Even if you don’t know Oskar Schlemmer, if you’ve seen Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance or New Order’s True Faithwith their eccentric costumes and mechanical movements—then you’ve had a taste of this Bauhaus Master’s multimedia design aesthetic, as both music videos are contemporary takes on his famous Triadic Ballet. (He controlled all facets of production: costumes, stage sets, lighting, music, choreography, promo posters, etc.) The result was a complete, cohesively designed package: an avant-garde tour de force that continues to inspire theatre and fashion as well as videos and other arts. And that’s “famous” as in: THE most well-known and honoured stage performance, created at THE most influential design school of the early 20th Century.

“The transmission history of Das Triadische Ballett is complicated. It was performed only a few times under Schlemmer’s direction, and always in different versions. The sequence of the individual numbers, the length of the performance, the musical accompaniment, the number of dancers: all of this changed each time, so that it is difficult to speak of an original choreography of Das Triadische Ballett. In any case, Schlemmer wanted the dramatization of his visual ideas to be understood more as a space of possibilities.”
– Franz Anton Cramer

And speaking of Schlemmer and music: yes, that is his original 1922 Bauhaus identity mark you’ve seen on merchandise for the late-1970s Brit goth punk band of the same name.

“With the logo and his masterpiece Bauhaus Staircase he created perhaps the most famous visual symbols of emergent modernism.”
– Philipp Oswalt, editor

The Bauhaus school demanded versatility from their Masters. Founder Walter Gropius: architect, industrial designer, etc. László Moholy-Nagy: photographer, filmmaker, etc. Herbert Bayer: graphic designer, typographer, etc. But few of them also incorporated music, theatre, and dance, and none as astutely and dynamically as Schlemmer. He was already a painter, sculptor, and muralist when Gropius hired him. Once at the Weimar Bauhaus, and then on through Dessau, he expanded his media repertoire far beyond the two- and three-dimensional. He taught multidisciplinary classes that integrated kinetic motion studies, figure drawing, and philosophy. And Der Mensch, the human being, was always at the core of his instruction.

“My own great impression of Schlemmer’s stage work was to see and experience his magic of transforming dancers and actors into moving architecture.” – Walter Gropius


“Above all… he was one of the few artists at the Bauhaus whose painting and sculpture was not nonrepresentational but rather placed the human being at the center of their work.”
– Karin von Maur

“To celebrate, Schlemmer, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s magazine, has devoted its entire sixth issue to Schlemmer. And as is typical with this publication, it’s filled with new, informative essays from a variety of smart perspectives. It’s also a visual delight: the most attractive issue yet, thanks to its guest designers, Berlin’s cyan. Its 150-plus pages are enhanced with understated, New Wave April Greiman-era forms, cleverly and playfully frolicking atop a classic Modernist text grid and strikingly bold photos and illustrations.”

Here are some sample spreads and excerpts from Bauhaus‘s “Schlemmer!” issue.

Oskar Schlemmer was a design genius who looked at design from different perspectives and has definitely left his mark on many aspects and disciplines of the design industry throughout history to the present day and is sure to continue to inspire us into the future.

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Ren 🙂


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